Students and staff at Barking’s new Technical Skills Academy welcomed shadow chancellor Ed Balls MP to its official opening on Thursday 18th October. Mr Balls praised the facility along with local MP for Dagenham and Rainham, Jon Cruddas. The new facilities provide vocational training and education for young people aged 16 to 19. The £14 million centre is a joint venture between the borough council and Barking & Dagenham College.

It is hoped that the project will begin to tackle youth unemployment in the area, providing teenagers with professional skills and reinvigorating Barking Town Centre.

Mr Balls said: “It’s fabulous to be here at the start of what is a big journey for the college, young people and the town.

“This is a first-class facility and it’s needed for 21st century education. It’s really going to make a difference to the lives of young people in the borough, not just for the next two years but for the next five, ten or twenty.

“We need people who can apply learning to the real world.” Teaching at the five-storey building, in the town centre off East Street, began in September and has places for 450 learners. Courses are designed for people who want to learn a trade and they include hairdressing, construction and catering.

Jon Cruddas also commented on the new facility; “This facility is a truly world class working environment. Our local council have shown the commitment they have to our local education facilities by investing a substantial sum of money into this project.

“At a time when youth unemployment is at an unacceptable level it is very good to see our local council is taking all options available in order to equip our children with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace.”